COVID19 Testing Center ...

Village Elementary School Principal Heidi Bergener gives a thumbs up for the new on-site COVID19 testing center as Nancy Ruttenberg, RN waits to administer the rapid test.

Coronado Unified School District was selected as one of only two districts in the state to participate in a pilot program for rapid COVID19 antigen testing. The program provides CUSD staff access to free weekly on-site testing using Abbott Labs BinaxNOW Covid-19 rapid antigen test. The test is about the size of a credit card, requires no equipment, and provides results in 15 minutes.

“We were able to test nearly 200 staff members on the first day,” said Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca, who is coordinating the program for the district. 

The pilot program was created in partnership with the California and San Diego County Departments of Public Health and involves the coordination of various agencies and departments. The BinaxNOW tests were purchased from Abbott Labs by the federal government and given to the states for distribution. The technology platform was provided pro bono by software company Primary.Health. 

“It is a multi-faceted team effort,” said District Nurse Joellen Semo. The clinic was supported by the health office nurses and health techs, our high school athletic trainer and administrative assistance from the district office. “We are fortunate to have strong support from Dr. Omid Bakhtar, Medical Director of Sharp Outreach Laboratory and Dr. John Malone, an Infectious Disease Physician in the Epidemiology and Immunization Services Branch at the County of San Diego, who is acting as the CUSD ordering physician in the pilot study,” Semo added. 

Timely, convenient testing is an essential element to opening schools for in-person learning; and outsourcing is costly and often inconvenient for staff. The information provided by CUSD in the pilot program will provide important data to determine if schools have the capacity to test staff and students in large numbers.

“Testing teachers and staff, with a plan to move to students, is a risk reduction procedure. This local study is to identify pearls and pitfalls in a pilot process,” said Malone.

A significant component of the study is the use of technology in generating registration, bar codes, results, etc. provided by Primary.Health. “This pilot demonstrates that having a streamlined, automated and organized testing program is a cost-effective strategy for supporting a safe in-person learning environment for teachers, staff, and students. Primary’s technology eliminates paperwork and automates reporting so that schools can focus on safely reopening. We are happy to see that Coronado was able to stand up and independently run their testing program using our platform, data analytics, and health equity tools,” said the company’s CEO Andrew Kobylinski.

“All the districts that have managed to open and stay open for any length of time, have done so because they have a robust testing program in place,” said CUSD Governing Board President Lee Pontes.

Previously, district staff were required to complete surveillance testing every two months at county testing sites where lines have notably increased. “The implementation of this weekly testing program will provide convenience for our staff, and also help identify asymptomatic people carrying the virus which will enable us to isolate and decrease the possibility of further spread. This will help us create more buy-in and provide additional comfort to our staff as we work towards the safe reopening of our schools on Feb. 1,” said Salamanca.

Superintendent Karl Mueller shared, “This initiative is aligned with our approach to reopening schools - using hopeful and responsible decision-making to get our staff and students back on campus as quickly but as safely as possible. We are excited to monitor the impact of this partnership.”

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